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Elmers...and Skywarn

Elmers…how on earth they got that name, I don’t know, but without Elmers where would this hobby be? Elmers come in all shapes and sizes and their impact may be short or long term. It seems we don’t often think about these wonderful, sharing people until they pass away. My first Elmer was my former physics professor – I don’t even remember his call sign! Al Shatzel used to love working 40 meter CW at night from his humble home in Glenview. He knew of my life-long interest in the hobby and encouraged me to get my ticket and get on the air. At one point, he gave me his TS-520S radio as further incentive to get going! With the radio on my desk, I had little option but to get my ticket. Well, there has been no looking back from those heady days. Al died several years back, but his spirit lives, and his radio recently was returned to me. I had loaned it to a young man who aspired to get into ham radio and needed a radio.  It is part of the Circle of Life…we give so others can enjoy the hobby…and so it goes.

When I learned that Joe Schroeder, W9JUV, was ill and then suddenly passed away this past week, I felt I had lost another Elmer. Joe’s influence was not as direct…we did not interact that often, but I got to know him enough to understand his passion for DX and ham radio. His amazing DX record has been recognized by many, including this past month’s QST. So while we mourn the loss of some of our greatest Elmers, the pressure grows for us to carry the torch on our own. Maybe that is the best way to honor our Elmers - become one. Who have you Elmered lately?

For many years, I have sat on the sidelines hearing about the wonderful work done by the ham radio Skywarn teams. To be honest, some of the dialogue was more about the frustrations experienced by this loose group of volunteers. In some ways, we are all a loose group of volunteers. Some want more stringent procedures, or discipline or support. There always seemed to be room for improvement. Fact is, even as they discussed these matters amongst themselves, they still got the job done - providing timely reports of weather conditions to the National Weather Service. They have benefited from the incredible work done by Mike Swiatkowski, AA9VI, who built web sites and brought order to the process. He was soon joined by Craig Dieckman, KC9HWK, who took the project a little deeper…and then, both found they could not continue the work they started. Babies, work, teenagers, life….something always seems to get in the way. Well, fortunately, there continues to be another group willing to do what is necessary to keep the Skywarn net together here. Scott Irwin, W8UFO, has agreed to be the Northern Cook County Skywarn Net Coordinator and your NSRC is helping provide some financial support and leadership continuity.

While this service is not as visible to the public as some of our other public service events, it is, none the less, exactly what I think a major part of this hobby should be. We need to give back to the public that so graciously has allowed us to use valuable frequencies. So, you will see many more Skywarn nets and discussion on our repeaters in the coming months. You can help by taking some of the many Skywarn courses available so that you can be knowledgeable and provide effective reports when the time comes.